Otis Technology on the mark with gun-cleaning kit


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Drizzt
January 10, 2003, 02:33 PM
The Business Journal - Central New York


December 13, 2002

SECTION: Vol. 16, No. 50; Pg. 13

B&H-ACC-NO: 270132651

DOC-REF-NO: CNYJ-2230-9

LENGTH: 750 words

HEADLINE: Otis Technology on the mark with gun-cleaning kit

BODY:
LYONS FALLS - Military and civilian demand for gun-cleaning products helped Otis Technology Inc. grow its bottom line by 30 percent over the past year. The company is approaching $3 million in revenues for 2002, according to Doreen Marks, founder and president of Otis Technology. The 31-employee company manufactures cleaning products for military, civilian, and law-enforcement use.

Otis' "breach to muzzle" cleaning kits are based on a design Marks created nearly two decades ago. After dropping her rifle into mud, Marks had to return to her hunting cabin to clean the rifle properly. Her hunting trip temporarily ruined, Marks vowed to design a gun-cleaning kit that was small enough to wear on a hunter's belt. The resulting kit combines a flexible cleaning rod with a series of brushes and patches. The kits are standard issue for many U.S. military personnel and Otis also manufactures civilian versions in a variety of configurations. The Otis all-caliber rifle cleaning kit sells for approximately $30. Marks incorporated in 1990 as Otis Technology, a tribute to her father, an avid outdoorsman whose middle name is Otis. She began by selling her creation at trade shows. With the help of a $97,000 Small Business Administration loan, Otis Technology moved into a 25,000 squarefoot manufacturing plant in 1997. Increasing orders have Otis looking into expanding its plant. The plant is located on a 9-acre parcel of land and Marks plans to build any additional manufacturing space on the existing plant's grounds.

"We'll be expanding right here," says Marks. "Lyons Falls has a great wealth of hardworking people."

New products and old favorites helped drive Otis' growth this year, says Marks. Sales to the military and homeland-security agencies under the General Services Administration helped the company add eight new positions in September. Otis manufactures 95 percent of its products in Lyons Falls, gays Marks. The company uses outside suppliers for some textile products. Her hardest job lately has been making hiring decisions. With the closing of several area paper mills and other industrial employers, the company has its pick of skilled machinists and other highly trained workers, she adds.

Otis makes a number of cleaning kits for military weapons and also manufactures kits under contract for catalog retailers such as Cabela's and L.L. Bean, says Marks. The company holds more than 30 patents on its products. The U.S. military approached Otis after individual soldiers and Marines began purchasing Otis cleaning kits. The company created a version of its rifle-cleaning kit specifically designed for the nation's primary rifle, the M16.

Military versions of Otis rifle-cleaning kits fit into the buttstock of the standard M16 rifle issued to most U.S. troops. Otis' latest product is a kit that packs into the handgrip of the M16 in order to accommodate the shortened version of the rifle used by some troops. The M4 carbine version of the M16 doesn't have a hollow space in the buttstock to hold a cleaning kit. The shortened M16 is widely used by soldiers whose duties require a smaller, lighter rifle.

On the home front, Otis received a five-year contract with the General Services Administration to provide cleaning kits to a number of domestic agencies. The GSA can renew the contract three times, she adds, opening the potential for two decades of government sales.

The past year has brought plenty of feedback from customers, says Marks. Soldiers who had the opportunity to use the Otis kits under combat conditions in Afghanistan have written the company to describe their experiences, she says. Otis "adopted" a platoon from the 10th Mountain Division at Ft. Drum during the war in Afghanistan. Otis employees wrote letters and sent care packages to members of the 110th Military Intelligence Batallion while the unit was deployed overseas.

Military customers provide-only half the picture for Otis. The company recently reached a distribution deal with Wal-Mart to put Otis products on shelves in 230 stores.

Recreational firearms users have also sent letters to Otis telling of their experiences with the kits. Some of the tales sound as if Marks' design vow has helped others avoid the ruined hunting trip that helped found Otis.

"We've received letters from hunters whose once-in-a-lifetime African safaris would have been ruined if not for an Otis kit," says Marks, "It's nice to hear that people appreciate our products."

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